Documento - Tunisia: Charges against former presidential adviser by military prosecutor flout human rights

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL �PUBLIC STATEMENT

24 August 2012

Index: MDE 30/007/2012

Tunisia: Charges against former presidential adviser by military prosecutor flout human rights

Amnesty International is calling for the charges brought by a military prosecutor against former presidential adviser Ayoub Massoudi, accused of criticizing the army, to be dropped, as they clearly violate his right to freedom of expression.

Amnesty International also calls for the travel ban against him, which the investigative judge maintained when Ayoub Massoudi appeared before him yesterday, to be immediately lifted.

Ayoub Massoudi was charged with undermining the reputation of the army, under Article 91 of the code of military justice, and defaming a civil servant, under Article 128 of the penal code, after he publicly criticized the extradition of Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, former Libyan prime minister, to Libya in June. He said that the Tunisian President had not been adequately informed of the extradition by Tunisia's chief of the armed forces and Defence Minister.

Amnesty International condemned the extradition, which put the former Libyan prime minister at risk of serious human rights violations, and which Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki himself said he had not authorized as required by Tunisian law.

The extradition of Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to Libya raised serious concerns about its conformity to Tunisia’s obligations under the UN Convention on Torture as well as the extradition procedure under Tunisian law. Yet, former presidential adviser Ayoub Massoudi is now facing charges for raising these very concerns.

The right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Tunisia is a state party, includes the right to publicly criticize officials and institutions. According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body which monitors compliance with the Covenant, public figures and institutions should tolerate a greater degree of criticism than people generally. Accordingly, criminal or other laws which provide special protection against criticism for public officials are not consistent with respect for freedom of expression.

Amnesty International is calling on the Tunisian authorities to put Tunisian legislation in conformity with its international obligations, and to ensure that Tunisians are able to voice expressions critical of the authorities without fear of harassment or retribution.

In addition, Ayoub Massoudi's right to a fair trial is further undermined because he has been charged by a military tribunal. International human rights standards are clear that civilians should not be prosecuted before military courts. Although Tunisia’s code of military justice was reformed in July 2011, it did not limit the jurisdiction of military courts to offences of a purely military nature committed by military personnel.

At yesterday’s appearance before the investigative judge, Massoudi's defence lawyers questioned the independence of the military tribunal vis-à-vis the army and were alarmed that the Chief of the armed forces' statement contained in the casefile was not obtained under oath, in contravention of Article 61 of the criminal procedure code.

Ayoub Massoudi’s next appearance before the investigative judge is scheduled for 30 August. He first learnt about the travel ban against him by airport customs and police officials on 16 August, as he was planning to travel abroad. He was only notified of the charges and travel ban against him on 18 August.

Amnesty International has continuously criticized the use of military trials in Tunisia against civilians accused of security related offence under the rule of Ben Ali.

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